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Top 10 things Toyota must do to handle PR car crash

The Drum asked McCann Erickson Birmingham's PR team to collate their ten suggestions for protecting the Toyota brand as it looks to run the media guantlet while in the depths of a crisis.

The compay is also facing severe media scrutiny following the release of a distressed phone call made by a family killed in a car crash, apparently caused by a faulty accelerator on their Toyota vehicle.

Yesterday, The Drum posted a piece by reputation specialist Jonathan Hemus of Insignia Communications in the West Midlands on how Toyota had handled the situation.

Here we have the PR team at McCann Erickson Birmingham’s Ten Tips in Crisis Management for the situation.

1. Clarify that Lexus is not part of the Toyota model recall, but confirm that a thorough investigation into the individual case is underway as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to the safety of its customers.

2. Divert attention to the current Toyota model recall and the safety measures Toyota is taking.

3. Monitor online chatter closely, responding to concerned consumers and inaccurate comments, and ultimately steering traffic to the official Toyota recall website for accurate advice and information about Toyota models that are affected by the recall.

4. Make full use of social media to keep the flow of information to consumers up to date.

5. Ensure that messages and any ‘fix’ strategies are consistent across all markets to avoid confusion amongst consumers – the internet as an instant messaging environment is not conducive to separate market strategies

6. Keep dealers and their staff, and customer services call centre operators, fully updated with latest developments – as the first port-of-call for many consumers, their knowledge and loyalty in the weeks and months to come will be key.

7. Have spokespeople in each key market briefed and media trained – early preparation will be key.

8. Remove from the Toyota recall website any links to old and now inaccurate blog postings – one link refers to the RAV4 model being part of the Toyota recall, which it clearly now isn’t. Consumers will be looking for consistent information about which models are and aren’t affected by the recall – the seed of doubt will be sown if conflicting information is readily available.

9. Be sensitive about the content of all Toyota and Lexus communication over the coming weeks – a statement referring to the 2009 sales success of two Toyota models affected by the 2010 recall makes for an uncomfortable read and Lexus ads aired on US TV have been deemed as distasteful.

10. Monitor and share media coverage and online conversations between each market’s crisis teams via regular conference calls – this enables the monitoring of the increase or decline in column inches, and the sentiment of content so that PR strategies and messages can be developed on a daily, or if necessary hourly, basis.

Meanwhile, Toyota GB has begun an apology campaign from its managing director Miguel Fonseca (pictured.)

McCann Erickson Birmingham is a member of the Marketing Industry Network